Schramm Park State Recreation Area, or simply Schramm Park as it’s more commonly known, is a diamond in the rough that’s easily overlooked due to its proximity to more flashy parks in southeastern Nebraska. I was unimpressed with our first visit there, but I’m so glad I returned with the kids because it has become one of our annual outdoor getaways near Omaha.
2020 Update: Visit the Nebraska Game and Parks website for up-to-date safety measures and requirements to enter park buildings.
Here’s are a few key things to know about Schramm Park to plan a visit:
Where is Schramm Park?
Schramm Park is located in Gretna, Neb., about 30 miles from Omaha. Its address is 21502 West Highway 31.
What to bring to Schramm Park
A few key things to bring if you’re visiting Schramm in the summer (or any Nebraska parks, for that matter):
- Bug spray is a must.
- Water bottles. The Education Center has a water fountain to refill them.
- Old shoes, because the trails can be muddy and if you climb around the geological site, you’ll get pretty dusty.
- Snacks or a picnic. There aren’t a lot of restaurants nearby, so if you get hungry, plan on a little drive to find food.
What to do at Schramm
When we head to Schramm Park, our main intention is to hike. OK, scratch that, my main intention is to hike. My kids are at the age now where they speak their minds and prefer other things.
OK, but the hiking is great. For a good woodlands trail hike, Schramm offers a nearly 1.5-mile loop to a cool suspension bridge. It’s just the right length for families.
There are a few uphill parts, but mostly, it’s not too challenging for most skill levels.
The trail leads to a suspension bridge, which for us, is a good turn-around point.
You can go beyond the bridge for a longer hike, about 3 miles total.
Schramm is home to Nebraska’s first fishing hatchery. It’s now a museum, but I’ve never seen it actually open.
You can walk around the hatchery area, though. It’s picturesque and there is a machine to get some fish food for a quarter.
Nearby ponds, still a part of the hatchery area, attract a lot of waterfowl. On our last visit, we saw goslings.
If you ask my kids, the biggest draw is the geological display, or what we just call the “dig site.” At the dig site, the kids climb and search for fossils. Expect dirty and excited kids afterward.
Tip: You can’t actually dig there, so don’t bring chisels or any tools like that.
There are also picnic areas, a playground, and plenty of bird watching to be done there. The park is located near the Platte River, and there is an access point there if you have your own canoe or kayak.
Can you camp there?
No. This is a day-use park only.
It’s not too far from Louisville State Recreation Area, Platte River State Park, and Mahoney State Park, though. All three offer camping, and the latter two also have cabins.
Related post: Guide to Nebraska State Park Cabins
Does it cost money to go?
A state park permit is required for vehicles. The Education Center is an additional fee (see the next section for details).
Is the Education Center worth the admission?
You might remember old school field trips to Schramm, visiting the Aksarben Aquarium there. Well, in 2019, the aquarium and Education Center got a multi-million dollar upgrade.
New additions include:
- Aquariums featuring Nebraska’s natural aquatic habitats: Cool water streams, rivers, reservoirs, and farm ponds. Some tanks include some of Nebraska’s smaller, lesser-known fish species.
- Live animal tanks featuring Nebraska’s reptile and amphibian species.
- A reading nook, maker’s space, bird watching area, and pre-school play area with a little slide.
- Interactive activities including a digital topographical map, interactive wayfinding maps, touch screens focusing on the species of the area.
- Virtual reality mountain biking experience.
Now, with all the updates and additions, admission is $10 for adults (ages 13+), $7 for children and seniors, and FREE for children age 3 and younger. For our family of four, that’s $34. Was it worth it?
It is certainly impressive, but I thought the admission price was a little steep for the experience. Granted, I’ve traveled quite a bit and have visited some equally unique education centers were included with the price of park admission, so I’m seeing things through that lens.
My kids loved it, though. The touch tank could’ve kept my daughter occupied for an hour alone.
And I had fun “racing” my kids on the virtual mountain bike experience.
But, you will learn a lot about Nebraska, and on a hot summer day, it’s a nice place to cool off. And on a cold winter day, it would perfect to hunker down with the kids for a few hours to play, read, and create. So, maybe you will feel like it is worth the price of admission.
Can you really find fossils there?
Yes, we’ve found small fossils at the geological site. Fossils found in the limestone and shale are Paleozoic marine fossils like brachiopods or corals.
I’m pretty sure my kids’ dream of finding a fully-intact dinosaur fossil someday.
Dream big, kids, dream big.
What’s near Schramm Park
While Schramm Park can take a few hours to explore, you may want to combine visits to two parks to really tire the kids out (especially if you’re already making a long drive to get out there).
Here’s a sample of what you can do at other nearby parks, which don’t forget, require a state park permit to enter:
- Louisville State Recreation Area: For an extra fee, you can tackle the inflatable water obstacle course. There’s also a nearby beach.
- Platte River State Park: Hike to a small waterfall, fish, climb up the lookout tower, and for an additional fee, play in at the spray ground or go horseback riding. There are also paddle boats.
- Mahoney State Park: A lot of things at Mahoney State Park are an additional fee, like horseback riding, paddle boats, putt-putt golf & driving range, and the indoor activity center with rock climbing and huge play area. The big draw is the awesome aquatic center with waterslides. But, for free, there are some great playgrounds, a lookout tower, toboggan run in the winter, a conservatory, fishing, and paved trails.
If you didn’t pack a picnic for your Schramm Park visit, there are a few options for food nearby. Check out Around The Bend Steakhouse in Ashland, Neb. (home of the Testicle Festival), or for ice cream, go toward Springfield, Neb., and grab a seat at the old-fashioned soda fountain inside Springfield Drug (one of the most unique ice cream shops in Nebraska).